Wednesday, December 22, 2004

How to talk to a coach

My most recent game was another blowout. I'll be having quite a few of those this year, since I have to re-establish myself at the bottom of the list and head back up to get better assignments. This game was one of those where, as soon as we looked at the schedule, it was over. (Red wound up winning by close to 40.)

As I might have said, some of the conferences in my area are switching to 3-official crews this year. It's an adjustment...while we switch, I'm spending time and mental energy trying to determine whether I'm in the right spot on the floor and whether I'm watching the right area. But that doesn't worry me too much...that'll all come with time. What's most challenging to me right now is coach communication during a 3-official game.

In a two-official game, as soon as I make a call that a coach doesn't like, there's somewhere to go. I have to haul ass down the floor be the new lead, across it to in-bound the ball, down low to administer a free throw...there's a legitimate excuse to leave the coach's vicinity. "No, coach, I'm not ignoring your tantrum, since it would be rude to ignore you...I'm headed off to do the next thing." It's not the same in three-person. In the three-person game, the mechanics have been changed. It used to be that the official who called the foul would immediately be sent to the opposite side of the floor from the benches--the rationale being to avoid coach-ref confrontations. This season, however, they've totally turned that on its head and are requiring the calling official to go to the bench side...right next to those coaches. The rationale is to increase coach/ref force us to learn to talk to each other by sending us next to each other after fouls. Okay--that's fair enough. But it's going to take some adjustment.

Which brings me back to my blowout game. It's early--three minutes in. White is already losing by about eight. White is taking it up the floor against pressure. The point guard catches a pass and starts heading up the sideline, right in front of white's coach. I see a red defender take position. It's not great position, but as I see it, it meets the rulebook's definition of "legal guarding position:" two feet on the floor and facing the opponent. Red shuffles her feet a little bit, backs up a touch, but then there's contact that knocks her over. I call a player control foul (that's a charge, for those of you into NBA terminology).

I stand by the call, but I'm not thrilled with it...maybe my eyes weren't on the defender as much as they could have been, but I do think she'd established position. That mans I have a player control foul. Coach goes ballistic. "WHAT??? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!" In the past, this is where I would get away from him. There's nothing to be gained from a conversation that starts this way. I feel I need to remove the coach from what the Catholics call "the proximate occasion of sin:" that is, a situation where we both know that he is likely to commit an act he won't like later. But, alas, this is three-person...I have to stay by the bench. Yuck.

Here's how I remember the conversation:

Me: "I have player control. She was there."
Him: "You've got to be kidding me! That's terrible!"
Me: "Player control, coach."
Him: "No way! That's awful!"
Me: "(shrugs) Well, it's possible I missed it."

This last line, "it's possible I missed it" (sometimes presented as "if it happened your way, I missed it") is a standard ref line. It's an absolutely true statement, shows a little humility, and there's no real response to it. It usually pacifies a coach. Not this one. I think he mistook the statement for apathy, however--the inadvertent shrug didn't help. He told me a few minutes later that a ref who says "it's possible I missed it" doesn't deserve to be on the floor. Eventually I had to warn him and shut him up. He did, so no T for him. In fact, we even shared a joke later:

Me: "Coach, my partner down there had a better look at the play."
Him: "But you're right next to me. You're much easier to yell at."
Me: "Understood." (I laughed. That was funny, you've got to admit. He didn't laugh, but whatever.)

But I need to work on coach communication. I've talked with a ref who is also a coach, and he suggested that, table-side or not, I still get the ball in-bounds and get away. I'm worried that this will look like I'm simply ignoring the coach, which is exactly what the three-man bench-side mechanic is designed to avoid.

Sigh...always more learning to do. How to talk to someone who is having a tantrum. How not to talk to him. Tough stuff.


lemming said...

Would you be a teacher if you didn't like learning?

TeacherRefPoet said...

I might be a gym teacher.